Edinburgh is one of Nat’s favourite cities in the UK, so for Christmas she decided that Joe should share her love of the Scottish capital, and at the same time, cross one of the top items off his bucket list, drinking whiskey on the Royal Mile. Nat also invited Joe’s family along for their first Backpacks and Beverages adventure as they were also yet to experience all that Edinburgh has to offer, plus I wanted Joe to share that special bucket list moment with his dad. They both love whisky and always mark a special occasion with a dram, so I wanted this to be another experience they will remember with their favourite drink.
Edinburgh is filled with fantastic places to drink, eat and take in the amazing views. From bespoke cocktail bars, to your traditional heritage pubs, we have chosen our favourites from all over the city to cater for everyone. Whether you’re going on a girly weekend and require a disco ball filled with pornstar martini , a group of friends up for a good time with a plush bar & live music, or a couple that want to experience the best cocktails Edinburgh has to offer, we’ve included something for everyone!
Welcome to Backpacks and Beverages!
Hi there ! We're Joe and Nat.
We both share a passion for drinking around the world and our aim is to explore as many countries as possible.
Scratch Map Beer: Tennent's Lager
Favourite Local Beverage: Glen Scotia Double Cask Whisky
Where to Drink
The Devil's Advocate
This is THE must visit pub no matter your reason for visiting Edinburgh! Located just off The Royal Mile down a little side street on Advocate’s Close.
The bar had a stunning rustic décor and boasts one of the most playful cocktail menus in Edinburgh. Make sure you embrace the relaxed atmosphere by sipping on a beautiful handcrafted cocktail that many rate as the best in the city.
The Voodoo Rooms
This bar is suave to say the least. With its 1920’s New Orleans vibe, the bar is richly decorated with intricate painted ceilings and a long black, leather studded bar and seating area.
A great place for cocktails! You'll definitely having a fun time working your way down the menu.
If you visit over the weekend as well, they regularly host local bands that will definitely get you in the party mood!
One of the most glamourous and elegant bars in Edinburgh, Tigerlilly is ideally suited to girly afternoon cocktails. Don’t worry though gents if you're dragged along, luckily, they do have a vast selection of beers and big screens for sports to help soften the blow
Ladies, if there are around 4/5 in your group, the Pornstar Martini XXL is the way to go! The cocktail is served in a giant glitter ball and comes with a bottle of Prosecco rather than little shots.
A fantastic example of a traditional Scottish Edwardian pub that is well worth a visit if (like me) you can’t resist the lure of an old wooden bar with a few cask ales to work your way along.
The current setup dates from the early 1900’s and the bar is well stocked with a vast selection of scotch whisky, superb local ale and a great wine list.
Well known as one of the best historic pubs of Edinburgh, The Abbotsford is well worth a visit if you’re a traditionalist when it comes to pubs.
Renowned as one of Edinburgh’s best beer spots, Bow Bar is another traditional pub but with a crafty twist. With a selection of ever-changing cask, keg and bottled beers, you wont struggle to find something to your taste.
It’s also the perfect place for whiskey connoisseurs (such as Joseph) as above the fridges filed with beers are shelves stacked with over 220 malt whiskies just waiting to be enjoyed.
If you’re serious about having a few drinks during your visit, Bow Bar has to be high on your to do list!
Heads and Tales
This place refers to itself as “Edinburgh’s hidden gem”, and for good reason! Located in the basement of the Rutland Hotel, Edinburgh Gin’s flagship bar is a gin lovers paradise (that’s right it’s Nat’s turn!).
By day the bar is a gin distillery, but from 5pm it turns into a wonderful cocktail bar. As well as a seemingly endless Gin selection, the menu has a G.I.Y section (Gin It Yourself), a four-part process of 1. Choose Glass, 2. Choose Gin, 3. Choose Flavour, 4. Drink & Repeat.
It’s a must for gin lovers amongst a city of whisky drinkers!
Scotch Whisky Experience
Now for the reason we went to Edinburgh in the first place… Natalia bought Joseph a gold tour of the Scotch Whisky Experience, because its always been a dream of his to drink his favourite drink (single malt scotch) on the Royal Mile with his best pal (Pete).
For anyone who is interested in Scotland’s most famous tipple, The Scotch Whisky Experience is a must! As part of the tour, you will take a ride in a traditional whisky barrel that takes you through the production of scotch whisky. From there, you will head up to a traditional tasting room to sample a classic malt from one of the 5 regions of Scotland’s distilleries, Highlands, Lowlands, Cambletown, Speyside & Islay. You’ll get to enjoy your taster while taking in the world largest collection of scotch whisky, with over 3,300 of some of the rarest bottlings you will find in the whisky world, and you get to keep your own Glencoe tasting glass to take home.
If you’re lucky enough to have a Nat who buys you a gold tour, you will also get four more samples from the different regions to try before you make your way back out onto the Royal Mile to continue your Edinburgh experience.
A heads up guys, Edinburgh airport has a Brewdog! Make sure you go and find it 😉
With 16 taps of their signature craft beers and a great food menu, it hands down wins our vote over your standard Wetherspoons burger and a lager.
Our particular Brewdog favourites are: 5am Saint, Elvis Juice, and their classic Punk IPA , lightly hopped and always a fan favourite that was also served on our flight, yay!
What to See
The castle is Edinburgh's main attraction, standing tall against the skyline of Edinburgh as it sits upon Castle Rock, the remnants of a dormant volcano. There is no surprise that this is Scotland’s number one paid for tourist attraction, giving you the chance to tour the inside the castle at your leisure, with a host of attractions and historical artefacts, including the Scottish Crown Jewels.
The views are also impressive, with the best photo spots being from the Battery and the top of the Lang Stairs.
Try and aim to visit at around 1pm if you can as you’ll get to see the firing of gun (be aware though this doesn’t happen on Sunday’s and bank holidays).
The ticket price on the day is £18.50, and if you would like an audio guide you can hire them at the castle for £3.50 each. You can save a bit of cash by booking tickets online but be careful though, you do need to book them at least an hour and a half before you can enter the castle.
We would aim to spend around two hours here for the entire visit, including the obligatory photo shoot outside the castle before entering!
Edinburgh's famous mystery house is located just down the Royal Mile from Edinburgh Castle, it contains a series of floors filled with optical illusions and puzzles. It also features a show at the end where you see live images of the city down below projected onto a viewing table, via a periscope.
The main highlight is the view over Edinburgh from the rooftop of the tower, it is one of the best views of the city. Unfortunately, we were tight on time so didn’t have chance to visit but Nat had been previously and would highly recommend as it’s a good laugh to have with friends and family of all ages.
The Scott Monument
This Victorian Gothic monument located opposite Princes Street, 5 mins walk away from Edinburgh Waverley Station.
You can climb the narrow spiral staircase to the top of the monument for £5 per person for some great views along Princes Street and towards to spires of St. Mary’s Cathedral, Calton Hill and St Giles’ Cathedral to name a few.
Unfortunately, the weather was that bad for us on the Saturday we couldn’t even consider the trip up to Arthur’s Seat. Arthur’s Seat boasts the best views of Edinburgh, although it is a hike it’s easily manageable right from the city centre and you have the choice of climbing to the top of Arthur’s Seat, or following the paved path along Salisbury Crags.
Where to Eat
Southern Cross Café
Located on Cockburn Street just off the Royal Mile near St Giles Cathedral, this is a perfect place to grab brunch or just a coffee and a tasty cake. It’s also a perfect central location to start your day exploring the city.
The café is quite pricey, but we found this with most places around Edinburgh, not quite London prices but pretty close.
Our personal picks would be the breakfast pancakes, and you should definitely add the bacon if sweet and savoury is a bit of you!
Makars Gormet Mash Bar
The perfect “taste of Scotland.” If you want tasty no-nonsense food this is the place to go. Simply pick your starter, your main and your style of mash.
Everyone seems pleasantly surprised by this place as it is expected to be your usual tourist trap. We would recommend this to anyone visiting Edinburgh looking for hearty Scottish comfort food, and they do have a few vegetarian options and a vegan dish, so nobody will struggle here.
Situated just outside of Edinburgh Waverley Station, the perfect spot to go for either a drink or a bite to eat if you are travelling to Edinburgh by train, or if not it’s only a 5 mins walk from Princes Street.
The exterior does not do justice to the sheer size of Brewhemia, the place seems to go on forever! Inside you’ll find a fantastic atmosphere helped along with live music every day of the week, would 100% recommend if you are coming with a large group. Just make sure you book beforehand!
Rabble Taphouse & Grill
This bar & restaurant is located within Rabble boutique hotel in the New Town, about a 10-minute walk from the Scott Monument.
Rabble is Edinburgh’s first low and slow tap house where all the produce is locally sourced, meat and fish are slow cooked over an open fire pit and craft beer is poured from giant cooper tanks so it’s still fresh from the brewery.
We didn’t get chance to eat here but the food looked divine, especially the nachos. Rabble is also dog friendly if you are bringing along your canine friend or just love seeing some pooches!
This great pub is a bit further out of the main city but still within walking distance being only a 13 minute walk from The Balmoral.
Joe fell on a treat when I asked him to find somewhere for us to have Sunday lunch, I give him 100% credit for this little gem of a find.
We went for the Sunday Roast menu and I can hold my hands up and say that it was the best pork belly I have had in my life, the crackling was done to perfection. A must try for pork lovers!
That’s our round up of the best views, brews and chews Edinburgh has to offer. Hopefully this will help plan your next escape to the Scottish capital. Thanks for reading.
If you have any questions or comments please feel free to get in touch 🙂
Slàinte mhath! (pronounced Slange Var!) that’s cheers in Scottish Gaelic 😉